Guidelines for Felting

I want to try my hand at felting something and I need some guidelines. Is there a rule of thumb for how to calculate how big to originally knit the item to achieve a certain smaller size after blocking? I want to knit a doll's jumper and felt it. I know the final size I want to achieve with the felted garment but I have no idea how large to make it first. Help will be most gratefully accepted!


ronhuber's picture

Jesse, I have found that all wool is different and felts differently. I once made a pair of mittens to felt and knit them twice as big and felted them. They felted but really didn't shrink. I should have done a sample and gone from there, and that is what I recommend you to do. My favourite way of felting is by hand. Article soaked in hot water and then rubbed, squeezed, rolled, etc until you can't see the stitches. That way you can see what areas need more felting. My friend puts the article in a bucket of hot water and uses a clean toilet plunger to get the process started and then she finishes it by hand.

Bill's picture

Definitely test a swatch...but wool usually felts about thirty percent. The shock from hot to cold, and agitation with soap...both necessary for felting.

Tallguy's picture

Technically, what you are wanting to do is fulling, not felting. Felting involves carded fibres which are matted together. When the cloth is structured in any way, such as knitting or weaving or crochet, and then matted, that is properly called fulling. It is a small detail, but extremely important to those of us that care. Using the wrong word is not very courteous.

As others have said, there is no real guideline. Every batch of wool will react differently. The only thing to do is full your swatch, measuring accurately before and after, to know how this batch will shrink. You will find some will shrink horizontally but not vertically, and others will do something entirely different.

You will also find that natural, undyed wool will not react the same as dyed yarns. I think that is because dyed yarns have already been processed to some extent. The knitting must be at a very loose gauge.

You can run it through a regular washing machine in the regular cycle, but it is best in a top-loading machine. You can stop the cycle at any time to check progress. You may have to run it through several times. Be sure to use a laundry bag, or pillow case, because the loose fibres WILL do major damage to your machine! Or the use of a plunger in a sink works very well for the agitation. Use a good soap; detergents are not quite the same. The use of hot and cold water doesn't matter; that is a myth. It is the agitation (rubbing fibres together) that actually matts the fibres -- in either hot or cold water, although everything works better in hot water.

Sometimes you will find it much easier to just create a sheet of fabric (either knitted or woven) and then full it almost completely. At that point, you can cut out the shapes you require, as with any clothing pattern, and sew them together. You can then finish the item to full any seams, if raw seams bother you. That way, you will get the exact size you need.

I look forward to see your completed item!

michaelpthompson's picture

As others have said, each wool is a bit different. A swatch is your best bet. I use the agitation cycle on a top loading washing machine, but if you want finer control, use one of the hand methods and check often.

I once made a Scots bonnet and even after running it through the washing machine and dryer twice, it was still too big. A friend suggested tennis balls, so I ran it through the washing machine again with a few tennis balls to increase the agitation. (As Tallguy said, it's the agitation that really makes the difference.) Worked a treat, and it fits me marvelously now. It's easier to make it smaller than larger once its done, but you can wet it in hot water and block it out a bit larger too.

"All knitting is just one stitch at a time."